Today is our last day of river cruising as tomorrow we reach St Petersburg and spend four days looking at its grandeur.
Our port of call for today was at Mandrogi Island. On the island is restored settlement in the form of a craft village. It’s very much the tourist island but it does have a great exposition of many different type of crafts from the original peasna tray of Russia. The village initially was planned as a Russian Disneyland, an entertainment center based on the fairy tales and operas of the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. However, it evolved into a craft village. I think that it would have been a pretty poor version of Disneyland anyway.
Prior to World War II, this site was a typical, and probably a very boring, Karellian mill town and a fishing settlement.The second world war left it a burnt ruin but after the Soviet Union fell, a group of Russian investors bought the land and invited a large number of the region’s woodworkers to use their creativity and traditional skills to restore Upper Mandrogi to look like an old farmers village complete with houses, hotel, mill and vodka museum.
Today,it is a mecca for cruise ships and is one of the ports that every one of them seems to stop at on their tour route through the upper Volga River and connecting canals. Ships were parked three deep at the pier and the village was teeming with people from all nationalities. Although it’s obviously not a real village, authentic wooden houses that were transported, and reassembled, from the cities of Vologda and Arkhangelsk create an atmosphere of an old Russian village.
We didn’t bother with the Museum of Russian Vodka. That building contains a collection of 2,800 different varieties of vodka from all across the Russian Federation, with displays showing how it s produced. The main centre of attraction for us were the workshops of different craftsmen located mainly in the old village area. They include a weaver from Ukraine who works in the house of the Old Believers, a religious group that broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church after a schism in 1666. The interiors of the authentic house are full of original exhibits that people can touch, unlike in most other museums of this kind. Other houses are occupied by a blacksmith, potters, engravers, silver smiths, embroiderers and painters. The craftsmen who create their works in the village actually live off the money that they make from sales.
Food is grown in small farms and plots that have been created around the houses. Cows, rabbits, quails and ducks are bred on the island. People make their own pickles and preserves, bake our own bread and famous Mandrogi pies and make cranberry drinks and liqueurs,
Overall, the island employs about 100 people and in summer the population doubles when more craftsmen come here to work during the holidays.
After dinner we had some singing by the passengers who formed a new “Red Army Choir’ and then a skit in which people played impromptu parts. My role was that of an old oak tree to which the princess was tied as she was captured by the evil villain.
We had the judging of the painting of the Matruoushka dolls and our friend, Barbara’s doll, was voted as second best.